By Andrea Curiel
Full-time music director at Orange Glen High School in Escondido, California, Ted Meyer resides in his living room-esque style office in the school’s newly built music building. A large, homey rug is placed at the office’s main entrance, topped by a casual coffee table normally covered in coffee cups, sheet music, and stuffed manila envelopes. At his desk, Meyer’s collection of paperwork and college memorabilia describe him as someone who is proud to be busy.
Meyer’s past “office” was his history classroom in room 412, where he taught subjects ranging from AP European History to senior economics. Meyer has been a teacher of many subjects at Orange Glen for 19 years, but he believes that his passion has always been music.
“I began playing the trombone in the elementary school music program in 5th Grade,” Meyer said. “And I continued playing in school bands through college and grad school.”
During his college career, Meyer was a part of both the Stanford and University of Southern California marching bands. The same year as Meyer’s arrival to USC in 1970, the band hired a new music director who Meyer described as a game changer for the university’s music department.
“[He] changed the band from a semi-pro group of college kids, grumpy music majors, and local pro musicians into a ferocious, arrogant band of Trojan fanatics dedicated to the glory of the university,” Meyer said.
Meyer’s experience at Stanford, however, was the polar opposite. He explains that the Stanford band was entirely student-run. The professor was very absent, giving the band full creative freedom.
“The professor who was assigned to the class arranged a few of the songs, conducted “The Star Spangled Banner,” then left the football games,” Meyer said.
Following Meyer’s experience with USC and Stanford, he had the opportunity to be a teaching assistant for the University of South Carolina’s Gamecock marching band. Meyer explains that his role as a T.A. was to improve the performance of the tuba section, which is only one of his teaching experiences.
“My contribution as a T.A. was largely to get the tuba section to believe in itself and really blow,” Meyer said. “It did change the sound of the group and as long as I could keep the tuba players under control the director let me do whatever I wanted.”
Surprisingly, Meyer actually started gaining teaching experience prior to his time at the University of South Carolina giving music lessons in high school. He started giving private trombone lessons as a sophomore in high school, through college, up until he moved to Europe in 1988.
Although his experiences are heavily music based, Meyer’s education and post-college life was not music based at all. Meyer’s early degrees from USC and Stanford are strictly history, world culture, and economic based, which are what make him so interesting.
Meyer explains that his degrees are reflective of his realization that he probably wouldn’t be a professional musician.
“When I discovered I was not going to become a professional trombone player I looked around for interesting General Ed classes and discovered an Asian History survey class that sounded fun,” Meyer said. “One thing led to another and I ended up going in a very different direction than I had expected to when I got into college.”
In fact, Meyer’s first job after grad school wasn’t history or even music related. He was given a position as assistant director of admissions at USC. Through that job, however, Meyer was given a gateway into the unpredictable world of advertising.
At USC, Meyer was given the task of developing recruitment systems for out of state students. In need for guidance, he contacted an experienced professor on campus for help and ended up receiving more help than he had anticipated.
“I discovered that one of the business school profs had owned an ad agency, so asked him for advice,” Meyer said. “As we became friends, he told me to go see his friends in the ad business and ‘tell them I sent you’.”
Meyer took his offer, and was surprised to find out what his contact was capable of.
“Since his had been one of the largest and most successful agencies in L.A. with names like Mattel Toys and Marie Calendar’s Restaurants, his name opened lots of doors for me,” Meyer said.
After delving into the advertising business, Meyer got the opportunity to move to Europe to direct business in Amsterdam.
“As director of client service in Amsterdam, my responsibility was for all Nissan car & truck advertising in Europe,” Meyer said. “The best part of working for ad agencies is that life is never dull.”
Meyer was unfortunately not allowed to teach music in Amsterdam, and after a few successful years in the advertising business, Meyer felt musically deprived.
“When I lived in Europe I was not allowed to teach music either privately or in schools, and I missed it,” Meyer said. “My life was unbalanced, so after four years I retired from ad work, came back to the U.S. and became a music major at ‘The Original USC.’ (University of South Carolina).”
Eventually, Meyer found his way to Orange Glen High School in 1998 after deciding to move closer to his son in Anaheim, California, where he took over the school’s music department for the first time. In his first three years, Meyer managed to triple the size of of the music department before his untimely hearing loss in his ear due to a tumor.
“I took over a marching band of 80, a choir of 18, and a concert band of 50,” Meyer explained. “Three years later when I lost the hearing in my right ear due to a tumor O.G. had a marching band of 128, 90 singers in 2 choirs, and 2 concert bands of 60 each. But I couldn’t hear well enough on the right side to balance the groups.”
Unfortunately Meyer had to step down as music director and took a year off to deal with his medical issues, but his love for the school never wavered.
“I still loved O.G.,” he said. “After a year off on sabbatical I came back to OG but in the history department and spent the next 15 years teaching history.”
And his students loved him. Josue Puebla, 20, Meyer’s former history student and Orange Glen alum, explains his love for teaching and history as contagious.
“He was really passionate about history,” Puebla said. “When he taught about history he was actually excited, which would rub off on his students and make us actually want to learn.”
While teaching history, however, Meyer had to undergo heart surgery and was forced to take another leave which resulted in another surprise for him.
“In 2012, I had open-heart surgery,” Meyer said. “Amazingly some of the medicine they gave me for that started to shrink the tumor that was crushing my auditory nerve so I now have about 80 percent of my hearing on the right side.”
This good news made him a candidate for music director again, which was eventually asked of him by the school principal three years later. Meyer thought it’d be a challenge, but he took the job anyway.
“I inherited a band of 19 and a choir of 10 which was pretty scary, so this is certainly a learning and teaching experience for me but I still love it,” Meyer said.
In one year, Meyer has been able to double the size of the music department and win the hearts of a new genre of students.
Meyer’s current music student, 17 year-old Austin Alegre, describes him as a father figure.
“He is a funny, witty and outgoing person who is like a father to everyone he meets. He just genuinely cares about his students and that’s what make him perfect,” Alegre said.
Orange Glen alum Philana Williams, 19, had Meyer as both a history and music teacher, and she describes him as one of the most influential people at the school.
“Meyer goes above and beyond the call of duty as a teacher,” Williams said. “He’s never made me feel like an obligation. I believe he has a sincere desire to serve his students.”